Melbourne win by 15 points
Last MFC Game
A famous day saw the Demons break a 23 year run failure to finally qualify for a finals series for Robert Flower in his last attempt. The equation was simple. Beat Footscray at the Western Oval and have Hawthorn (16-5) beat Geelong (11-10) at Kardinia Park. It was a scenario eerily reminscent of Round 22, 1976 when the Demons had done their bit by beating Collingwood only to see top five contenders Footscray steal a draw against minor premiers Carlton to leapfrog into 5th.
The Demons had often promised in the eleven seasons since then, but through five coaches and hundreds of players they'd more often been down - or at - the bottom of the ladder. Flower had to be talked out of retiring at the end of 1986, and now his chances of playing finals football rested on a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon in the western suburbs - and what happened in Geelong.
The Demons entered the ground through a banner with a large caricature of Flower and the words "FOR YOU", and the teams stuck together for the first half. Footscray led by a goal at the long break and got the first of the third term to extend their lead to 12. Two more by the four minute mark left the Demons in enormous trouble. Another opportunity immediately after might have killed the visitors off for good, but drifted across the face of goal for Brett Lovett to take the relieving mark.
Flower provided the steadier. After just two touches in the opening half, and lucky not have been judged holding the ball on the wing seconds earlier, he took advantage of a tricky bounce to run into goal and cut the league back to 18. He took a handball from Bret Bailey to add his second straight out of the middle and the Demons were back in it.
When Brian Wilson, sent to full forward after a poor opening half, marked and goalled his side was closer than they had been at the start of the quarter. It was the last goal of the quarter, leaving Footscray where they started it, a goal up.
Team Manager John Sell told the players at three-quarter time that the Hawks were thumping Geelong. The coaching staff wanted them to concentrate on doing their bit and letting the game at Kardinia Park play out.
Even after the loss of Steve Turner to a knee injury left Melbourne's big man stocks even further depleted, they levelled scores less than a minute into the last quarter. The game then became a defensive struggle, with neither team able to score for nearly 10 minutes. Kicking into a slight breeze Simon Beasley had the chance to put his side ahead again but failed to score. Beasley was then outmarked by Stynes in front of goal, but eventually 17-year-old Steve Kolyniuk found space inside 50 to put the Dogs ahead again.
Future Demon assistant coach Brian Royal missed a set shot to extend the gap to seven, but from the kick-in a speculative long kick from Steven Stretch found Flower in the square and Melbourne was still alive. They were in an even better position when Ricky Jackson roved a marking contest and snapped to put them ahead approaching the 20 minute mark.
With time starting to become a factor the Demons began time-wasting tactics, kicking and punching the ball out of bounds at every opportunity. The problem was that at Kardinia Park, the locals were as good as home when they led by 15 minutes deep in the last quarter. A goal cut it the margin to nine, but with 28 minutes played there was barely any time for the Hawks to win. From the next centre bounce they went inside 50 again, with Jason Dunstall - well held until the last quarter - marked directly in front of goal.
Geelong had their chance to shut the game down, but when the ball found its way to Mark Bairstow on the wing he opted not to waste time, instead looking for a kick back in the middle of the ground that landed directly with Hawthorn's Russell Morris on the defensive side of centre. He dashed towards the middle and kicked long into the forward line where the ball evaded a contest and fortuitously fell into the hands of a lunging Dunstall. From 45 metres out he kicked his fourth goal of the quarter and broke Geelong's heart. The Cats never got out of the centre again, with Morris taking another crucial intercept mark, and putting the ball back into Hawthorn's half, where it remained until the final siren.
While the drama was playing out in Geelong, the Demons made sure that if they missed out it wouldn't be their fault. Against one of his old sides Brian Wilson was outrun by Michael McLean, but his scrubbing kick bounced to Brett Lovett, whose long kick bounced off a pack and landed with Wilson. The Brownlow Medalist straightened up, overcame any fatigue from his earlier chase, and covered himself in glory with the winning goal.
Wilson then marked again, taking valuable seconds off the clock, and to the sound of Melbourne fans chanting "Hawthorn! Hawthorn!" pushed his kick to the right, leaving open the prospect of two late Footscray goals levelling the scores.
Appropriately Flower made the game safe, with a long kick sending trainers attending to an ankle injury for Wilson scurrying out of the way, Tulip grabbed the ball off the deck and had a flying shot that went wide but extended the margin to three straight kicks with barely any time left. Footscray's spirit was broken, and they quickly conceded two more behinds. Their last chance died when Todd Viney marked inside the defensive 50 and quickly took the ball away from the home goal.
Now it all rested on whether Hawthorn could win, and when news of them hitting the lead reached the Western Oval there was such pandemonium that television commentators at first thought it was greeting the final siren. It did go for real a few seconds later, prompting a ground invasion by jubilant fans. Most players were only just discovering the Hawks were in front, but as the siren hadn't gone at Kardinia Park there was still the chance of a shattering late defeat.
Fans who hadn't even been born in 1964 and those who distantly remembered the glory days shared in the celebration on the Western Oval, with many holding radios to their ears for updates on the other game. Some even tried to hoist a reluctant Robbie Flower on their shoulders. He refused, running off under his own steam, and as the players hit the rooms, though, the siren went at Kardinia Park and they were in. For the second time that day the players erupted.
Wight, Dean and Newport were the best for Melbourne but they lost exciting youngster Garry Lyon with a broken leg. Brian Wilson injured his ankle late in the last quarter, keeping him out of the first final and Flower suffered a broken finger which required pain-killing injections and a great deal of subterfuge to get him to the line the next Saturday. Steve Turner strained knee ligaments and also missed.
Earl Spalding and Dean Chiron were both reported for striking. Both were cleared. Spalding had accidentally struck Bulldog Shane Williams, causing him to be stretchered from the ground while Chiron and Doug Hawkins were accused of hitting each other with right fists while wrestling.
Footscray 18.13.121 d. Melbourne 10.10.70
Goals - Eishold 3, Richards 2, Lamb 2, Kol 1, Campbell 1, Lovett 1,
Best - Allardice, Lovett, Eishold
Melbourne 19.10.124 d. Footscray 12.9.81
Goals - Lane 3, M. Stillman 3, Graham 2, Healy 2, Partington 2, Smith 2, Gazeas 2, Hanlon 2, Minchington 1
Best - Smit, Clarkson, Hawkins